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Bella Cucina

This ‘beautiful kitchen’ brings authentic Italian to you

Posted: August 14, 2009 1:21 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2009 1:16 p.m.

A crisp, creamy cannoli ($5.50) paired with chocolate grappa is an authentic way to end your meal at Bella Cucina Valencia.

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Whoever said good things come in small packages obviously has not been to Valencia's Bella Cucina Ristorante Italiano.
The gorgeous restaurant on The Old Road, opened by Roza and Jay Hamzeheinejad last August after the success of the original Bella Cucina in Canyon Country, is huge, accommodating up to 260 guests.

Somehow it's also surprisingly warm and cozy. Apart from the personalized greetings and attentive service, it's the ambiance. From the distressed concrete floor with a bronze patina to the wood-paneled walls to the rich leather booths, Bella Cucina is a welcome change from the generic corporate chains that line the street.

That's exactly what the Hamzeheinejads, who can be found interacting with customers at either location seven days a week, had in mind.

"We like to make our guests feel like family," he said.

Their attention to detail is also found in Bella Cucina's menu, which offers everything from salads to calamari to pizza to pasta to soup to seafood and meat dishes at both lunch and dinner.

A seemingly simple penne alla vodka ($8.99 without chicken at lunch, $14.99 with chicken at dinner) is taken to new heights here. Perfect al dente pasta is paired with a luscious pink sauce that explodes with flavor and just the right spicy side note. Grilled chicken, usually an afterthought, is a prime component, soaking up the sauce within its tender depths.

Another surprise is the salmon risotto ($18.99), with a bold taste to match its stunning presentation. Decked out on a square plate, a plank of grilled salmon sits atop a bed of firm risotto swimming in a pool of ginger-hued cream sauce. A colorful salsa of pineapple, basil, onion, and red pepper adds an exotic, acidic touch to the richness of the dish, which is just plain delicious and a welcome departure from the usual risotto (i.e. a hard-to-get through, huge bowl of bland, creamy rice).

The seafood combination ($23.99) overflows with the ocean's delights - freshly steamed clams and mussels peeking out of their shells, generous chunks of salmon, succulent prawns and scallops - in a light, slightly smoky cioppino-like broth over linguini.
For dessert, the cannoli ($5.50), is a crispy, flaky pastry shell filled with creamy custard and drizzled with an artful array of chocolate syrup. It can be paired with chocolate grappa for an authentic end to a fantastic meal.

This is thoughtful, high-quality food at reasonable prices. Roza Hamzeheinejad spent five years studying in Italy and wanted to bring her tasty Tuscan memories to the Santa Clarita Valley.

"You can experience Italy here without the travel," she said. "All of our dishes are made to order. Even if we are packed, we start from zero. That way everything tastes fresh, healthy, and delicious."

"We go through a lot of sauté pans," her husband added.

Mindful of the current economy, Bella Cucina Valencia recently introduced a $8.99 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet served every day from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., which includes an extensive salad bar, two soups, and four pastas to choose from. In October, they will launch a $14.99 dinner buffet and add hearty chicken and beef options to the already bountiful spread.

For families or parties of four, there's a daily $32.99 dinner special served from 4 p.m to 6 p.m. with your choice of one house or Caesar salad, one cheese pizza, one family size pasta of spaghetti with meatballs or fettucini alfredo, and a basket of garlic knots. (Oh, those garlic knots. Chewy, yeasty little rolls doused with hot butter and careful...they're very addicting).

Happy hour drink and appetizer specials are available at the full bar daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., while entertainment comes to Bella Cucina Valencia every Saturday night, starting with jazzy piano music at dinner time, followed by a show from international dancers from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. At 10 p.m., they clear the dining room floor, which is highlighted with a beautiful mural depicting an Italian canal scene, and bring in a DJ for dancing until 2 a.m.

With three different dining rooms, Bella Cucina Valencia is also a prime spot for private parties, while their catering department can handle outside events ranging from intimate to grand.

"I love Italy, I think everyone does. We want our customers to take their time and enjoy their food, just like they would there," Roza Hamzeheinejad said. "We just bring Italy to you."


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